Born in Ely, Minnesota in 1922, Frank Kalan studied at the Institute of Art in Chicago where he also got his start as Al Buell's apprentice.  During WWII he served as a gunner in the Air Force and in the late 50's he moved to NYC where he joined Al Chaite's midtown advertising art studio.  Early clients included Pyramid Books, Avon Publishers and Coca Cola. Frank used pen and ink and oil and at the time was best known for his sweaty "bodice-ripper" book covers. Friends and colleagues included Bob Abbett, Joyce Ballantyne, Al Buell, Marilyn Conover, Ben Denison, Darrel Greene, Lenny Goldberg, Bob McGinnis, Barney Plotkin, Joe Rakowsky and Jack Thurston.

When photography eventually replaced illustration as the ad medium of choice Frank went on to spend the 70's, 80's and 90's producing romance novel cover art for Toronto-based Harlequin Enterprises. This website shares several of those illustrations, all done in oil on boards sized roughly 18 x 24, and produced at the rate of 1-2 per month.

Frank also captured a sliver of Harlequin history by saving many of his Art Directors' notes, model shots and final tearsheets to go along with the original art. Several examples appear on the Process page and show how the illustrator collaborated with the AD and editing team to get a book cover made. Regardless of style (hot and racy, chaste and sweet or family oriented) the work always had to place the hero and heroine center stage, connect with the target market, cement the sale and provide a scene the reader could return to while imagining the the lives of the characters. 

About 350 covers remain in family possession and approximately 70% have supporting materials to supplement the original art. Over 100 appear here to serve as a partial reference catalog and we've also posted some links to books, articles and discussion groups on the Contact page for anyone wanting a broader view of the genre. 

We welcome inquiries from parties interested in exhibition, university research, teaching, donation or individual aquisition.  


Frank died in 2003 at the age of 81. This site is maintained by his family and in addition to the romance cover art it holds examples of earlier illustration work and a few of the home polaroids he took to get a quick pose. Please contact us with any questions or suggestions.

Site design by Lindsey Warren